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Reduction in physical activity associated with increased cardiovascular risk

People over the age of 60 should move more, not less, to avoid heart disease and strokes. This emerges from a study published in the journal "European Heart Journal". For the scientific investigation, the researchers were able to access data from more than one million people.

As the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) notes in a statement, researchers from South Korea found that people who performed less-moderate or vigorous physical activity as they got older have a 27 percent greater risk of heart disease. and had blood vessel problems, while those who increased their activity levels had one to eleven percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The link between physical activity and the risk of cardiovascular disease in the elderly also applied to those with disabilities and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.

Data of over one million people

Under the supervision of Professor Sang Min Park, the researchers, led by Kyuwoong Kim, a graduate student from the Seoul National University Graduate School's Department of Biomedical Sciences, conducted the study on 1,119,925 men and women aged 60 years or older. Participants had undergone two consecutive health checks offered by the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NIHS) from 2009 to 2010 and from 2011 to 2012. The subjects were followed up until December 2016.

At each health check, participants answered questions about their physical activity and lifestyle. The researchers calculated at each screening the weekly number of moderate exercises (eg 30 minutes or more per day for brisk walking, dancing, gardening) and intensive exercises (eg 20 minutes or more per day for running, fast cycling, Aerobic exercise) and how it had changed in the two years between checks.

In addition, data on heart disease and stroke were collected from January 2013 to December 2016. The scientists adapted their analyzes to take into account socio-economic factors such as age and gender, other illnesses and medications taken, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

The average age of the participants was 67 years and 47 percent were men. About two-thirds reported being physically inactive during both the first and second screening periods. In both screening periods, the proportion of physically inactive women (78 and 77 percent) was higher than that of men (67 and 66 percent). Only 22 percent of inactive individuals had increased physical activity at the time of the second health check and 54 percent of those who had exercised five or more times a week at the time of the first screening had become inactive at the time of the second. In the follow-up period, a total of 114,856 cases of heart disease or stroke occurred.

Reduced risk of cardiovascular problems

The researchers found that people who switched from continuous inactivity to moderate or intense activity three to four times a week in the 2009-2010 Health Check had a 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular problems. Those who were moderately or vigorously active once or twice a week in the first study had a ten percent reduced risk if they increased their activity to five or more times a week.

In contrast, those who were moderately or vigorously active more than five times a week at the first check and who became continuously inactive on the second check had a 27 percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Looking specifically at people with disabilities and chronic conditions, the researchers found that those who moved from an inactive lifestyle to one with three to four moderate or vigorous activities per week also reduced the risk of cardiovascular problems. People with disabilities had a reduced risk of 16 percent and people with diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol had a reduced risk of between four and seven percent.

Older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency

"The key message of this study is that older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency to prevent cardiovascular disease," said Kim. "While older adults find it difficult to exercise on a regular basis as they grow older, our research suggests that cardiovascular health requires greater physical activity, and that includes people with disabilities and chronic conditions," so the scientist. Kim pointed out that governments should promote programs to promote older adults' physical activity. And, "From a clinical perspective, physicians should" prescribe "people at high risk for cardiovascular disease to physical activity along with other recommended medical treatments."

Results limited by several factors

Although the size of the study is a strength, one limitation is that it was only carried out among the Korean population and therefore researchers can not be sure that their results are also relevant to other groups of the population because of their different ethnicity and way of life. Other limitations include: The physical activity was rated on the basis of a self-reported statement that could be subject to bias. There was a lack of information about other types of physical activity, such as housework and muscle-strengthening activities. Researchers were unable to assess why people have changed their physical activity levels, as this was a study based on real-world data rather than data from an intervention study. (Ad)


  • European Society of Cardiology: Increased exercise over the age of 60. Reducing risk of heart disease and stroke, (Call: 09.11.2019), European Society of Cardiology
  • European Heart Journal: Changes in exercise frequency and cardiovascular outcomes in older adults, (Available on: 09.11.2019), European Heart Journal

. (TagsToTranslate) heart disease (t) strokes (t) Activities (t) age (t) Risk (t) cardiovascular diseases (t) blood vessel problems


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